Hart Family Ancestors in History: Elizabeth Fones (1610-1673)
“Desperate Puritan Housewives”
by Jennifer Krulic Hart

I realize that I have not profiled very many female ancestors. Their lives, usually, were not considered “history” by male historians of the past. Although this is changing, there is still not very much material on women in history. Exceptions to this rule usually involve wives and daughters of famous men, and victims and perpetrators of scandals. Elizabeth Fones had illustrious relatives, and although involved in scandal she was no victim. Her life was made into a historical novel by Anya Seton in 1958, and at one time into a made-for-TV docudrama. Even shorn of sensational fictional details, Elizabeth Fones’ life was dramatic and salacious.

Born in 1610, Elizabeth Fones was the daughter of Thomas Fones, an apothecary in London, and Anne Winthrop. Anne’s father, Adam Winthrop, was a wealthy Suffolk clothier who had risen to be master of the clothier’s guild in London. His success enabled him to join the gentry, buying a manor grant from the King and a coat-of-arms from the Royal College of Heralds. The Winthrops then became squires and lords of Groton Manor.

Elizabeth’s mother Anne died when Elizabeth was nine years old. Her father, Thomas, died when Elizabeth was nineteen and stipulated in his will that John Winthrop, Elizabeth’s uncle, be responsible for her education until she turned 21 or married. John Winthrop was a devout Puritan and a lawyer who was living in England at the time. He soon became the leader of the Winthrop Fleet, the first 1000 settlers to come to Massachusetts with the Massachusetts Bay Company. He later became the first governor of Massachusetts, serving 7 terms as governor in twenty years. John Winthrop was a famous and influential man in early colonial times.

In 1629, at the age of nineteen, almost immediately after her father’s death, Elizabeth married her first cousin, John Winthrop’s 21 year old son Henry. In 1630 Henry Winthrop left for Massachusetts aboard the Talbot in Winthrop’s Fleet. John travelled to Massachusetts as part of the fleet also, aboard the Arbella. Elizabeth and her mother-in-law/aunt (third wife of John) were both pregnant at the time, and rather than risk the hardships of a sea voyage they were to follow after the babies were born. In May 1630 Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, in England.

On July 2, 1630, the Talbot arrived in Salem, where most ships in the fleet docked first and asked directions to what would be the main settlement, Charlestown. It was a hot day, and Henry went for a swim in the river. He suffered a cramp and drowned in full sight of his friends, who could not swim. Elizabeth, a newly made widow, arrived in Massachusetts Nov 2, 1631 with her new baby. She made the crossing on the Lyon, with her aunt, cousins, sister, and about a hundred other passengers including a 15-year-old boy named William Hallett who would one day be her third husband. Within months of arriving, she had met and married thirty-year-old Robert Feakes, an influential landowner who (along with Hart family ancestor John Strickland) was among the first voting colonists in Massachusetts, and had arrived the year before. Elizabeth was barely twenty-one. Over the next sixteen years she would bear him at least four children.

Robert Feakes had been a goldsmith in England, serving an apprenticeship with his father for eight years beginning in 1615. He and Elizabeth began their lives in prosperity in Watertown, Massachusetts (like Hart family ancestors John Seaman and John Strickland). Robert was made lieutenant under Captain Patrick in 1632, was elected to various committees, served as magistrate, and owned about 200 acres of land in various places around Watertown.

He also purchased land at Dedham, CT in 1637, but apparently this is when things began to fall apart for Robert. He never lived at Dedham, and resigned his land claim there in 1638. Also, though in 1640 he and Captain Patrick purchased the site of Greenwich, CT from the Indians, Elizabeth had to sign the agreement for him, acting in his absence and illness. In 1647, Robert abruptly returned to England. Court records state that a Robert Feake faced charges in London around that time. It is not clear what the charges were, only that he was pardoned. Similarly, several sources state that by this time, Robert Feakes was insane, but they do not elaborate what type of insanity he may have had, only that it left him “distracted,” “unworldly” and unable to manage his affairs. In his absence, the forty-seven year old Feakes entrusted his estate to manager William Hallett, a man six years younger than Elizabeth, who was then thirty-eight.

In April 1648, only months after Feakes left, Thomas Lyon, who had been living in the Feakes household, wrote an indignant letter to Elizabeth’s uncle, John Winthrop: when I married first I lived in the house with her because my father being distracted I might be a help to her. Whereupon seeing several carriages between the fellow she now hath to be her husband and she the people also took notice of it which was to her disgrace which grieved me very much ... and seeing what condition she were in I spake to her about it privately and after I discovered my dislike I see her carriage alter toward me ... Father concerning the condition she is in and the children and estate my father Feike going away suddenly, having taken no course about the children and estate only desired a friend of his and I in case we see them about making away the estate and to remove we should stay it ... She also hath confessed since she came there openly she is married to him is with child by him and she hath been at New Haven but could have no comfort nor hopes for present to live in the jurisdiction and what will become of her I know not.

Apparently Lyon’s position in the household meant that he noticed some flirting (or more) going on between Elizabeth and the thirty-two year old estate manager, William Hallett. He also noticed her changing figure (condition) and rightly supposed she was pregnant. He was worried the pair would try to make away with Feakes’ money or estate, especially once Elizabeth began announcing she had obtained a divorce, married Hallett, and was with child by him. Considering everything that happened in a very short time, and the fact that her husband had reportedly been in poor health and/or going insane for ten years, I wonder how long the clandestine affair had been going on, and whether the removal of Robert Feakes to England was the instigation of the affair, or only the opportunity for divorce. It was a sign of the times that the estate owned by Robert and Elizabeth was considered wholly his, and Elizabeth was not legally entitled to any of it even though she obtained a legal divorce from the governor of New Netherlands. If Thomas Lyon thought to poison Winthrop’s mind against his niece and her lover, apparently he thought wrong, because by July 1648 Theophilus Eaton wrote his own scandalized letter to John Winthrop, who had apparently taken Elizabeth, William Hallett, and the children in:...I understand William Hallet etc. are come to your plantation at Nameag, their grievious miscarriage hath certainly given great offense to many. I wish their repentance were as clear and satisfying. It is possible that William Hallet and she that was Mr. Feake's his wife are married, though not only the lawfulness and validity of such a marriage, but the reality and truth is by some questioned, because themselves and Toby Feakes sometimes deny it; but leaving that, I shall acquaint you ... with some passages about that estate. Mr. Feakes from Boston October 6, 1647 wrote to Stamford that he reserved the whole propriety of his estate, till he saw how God would deal with him in England, and desired he and the children might not be wronged etc., after which that estate being from the Dutch in danger of confiscation, they brought it to Stamford, and at their request, it was there seized, as wholly belonging to Mr. Feakes, though after they challenged part thereof as the proper estate of William Hallet, and she besides desired a share in what was due to Mr. Feakes. I was not willing they should be wronged in the least, ... and accordingly at their request, I wrote to Stamford. William Hallet after this brought a letter from your honored father, and told me, he met with some opposition at Stamford, whereupon I advised him to attend the Court of magistrates ... but I perceived in him an unwillingness thereunto.... It was ordered that ... if she settled at Watertown, Pequod, or within any of the English colonies, two of the children, with half Mr. Feakes his proper estate should be put into the power and trust of such English government ... with such respect to Mr. Feakes, as may be meet, and that the other half of the estate should be improved at Stamford for the use of Mr. Feakes and maintenance of the other two children. I hoped that this might have satisfied, but the next news was that William Hallet etc. in a secret underhand way, had taken the children, two cows, all the household goods, and what else I know not, and by water were gone away ... when they had all the estate in their hands, the children went (if not naked) very unsatisfyingly appareled.

What I find interesting about this letter is that this admittedly biased individual thought it only proper that Elizabeth be ordered to give up two of her children and half Feakes’ estate to the English government, and that she and William be made to labor the rest of their lives improving the other half of the estate, which would not be theirs but would belong to Feakes and his children. Perhaps not surprisingly, Elizabeth and William elected instead to secretly elope with the children and as much of the estate as they could carry. Elizabeth was progressive even to ask for part of her husband’s estate after the divorce, and although it was denied her, she effectively took the law into her own hands and got away with it. Elizabeth’s uncle, Governor John Winthrop, wrote several letters to the Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, asking him to manage what was left of their estate (that they had not already made off with) in such a way that they could obtain a living from it. Apparently he succeeded because a letter from Elizabeth in January 1653 to her cousin John Winthrop Jr. mentioned that they were living near Hellgate on a very good farm purchased through the governor’s means. Elizabeth bore William Hallet at least two children. Their son, William Hallett Jr., was a Hart family ancestor. (He was the reason for Elizabeth’s “condition” in her scandal of 1647).

When Robert Feakes returned to the colonies, having lost his estate and his children to Elizabeth and William Hallett, he was supported by the town of Watertown from 1650 until his death. Apparently he never recovered his sanity.

On December 1, 1652 William Hallett received 161 acres from the Dutch authorities in New Amsterdam, an area which became known as Hallett’s Cove and Hallett’s Point. Navigators often waited there for more favorable tides to get them through Hell Gate. In 1655 their house and other buildings were destroyed by Indian attack, and William, Elizabeth and family moved to Hempstead (later Flushing, Long Island). William was appointed Sheriff at Flushing in 1656, but his career as a sheriff was short-lived. Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1656, after a varied and interesting life. She was forty-six. Their son, Hart family ancestor William Hallett Jr., was eight years old.

While sheriff at Hempstead, William Hallett, much like John Seaman (another Hart Family ancestor living in Hempstead) got in trouble for entertaining people who were not Puritan. Where Seaman in 1679 invited Quakers to hold a Meeting at his house, Hallett in 1656 invited the Reverend William Wickenden, a Baptist minister from Rhode Island, to preach at his house, dip his converts in the river, and give them the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. William Hallett was betrayed by the same intolerant Puritan who complained about John Seaman – Richard Gildersleeve. In this case, though, William Hallett was sanctioned and removed from office. Some sources say that he was fined and banished, but I think this actually refers to William Wickenden, especially since Hallett continued to be an influential and leading citizen in Flushing/Hempstead. The very next year, when another colonist (Henry Townsend) was sanctioned for allowing a Quaker meeting in his home, Hallett’s successor as sheriff (Tobias Feakes, Robert and Elizabeth’s nephew) drew up and signed a protest, along with 29 other colonists, known as the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest American documents championing freedom of religion. Hallett himself, disgusted at being removed from office, was happy to be sent instead as a delegate to the general court of Connecticut, and was later made commissioner and justice of the peace at Flushing. Then, having remarried, he again located with his family at Hallet’s Cove near Hell Gate.

William Hallett was rightly hired as a land manager by Robert Feakes, whatever happened later. Working for himself, William Hallett showed during the course of his life his acumen at buying and managing land. Hallett was the first owner of Riker’s Island, eventual site of the famed prison system, buying it from the Indians, but he did not press his claim when Riker also claimed it. In 1655, William Hallett was one of the colonists who purchased a tract of land which became the Town of Jamaica. Jamaica, Newtown and Flushing Townships comprise modern Queens. In 1664, William Hallett visited Astoria and bought 2,200 acres there, comprising all of modern Astoria and Steinway. In 1680, William Hallett was appointed overseer by Newtown Township. He died in 1706, age 90, after a long and prosperous life.

Rebecca Hallett, daughter of William Hallett Jr., married James Jackson. They were James Eaton’s great(x6) grandparents, and James Eaton was Samantha and Drew’s great(x3) grandfather. So Elizabeth Fones was Samantha and Drew’s great(x13) grandmother.

References:

  1. http://www.bklyn-genealogy-info.com/Queens/history/lic.html
  2. http://www.winthropsociety.org/doc_freemen.php
  3. http://www.pbministries.org/History/John%20T.%20Christian/vol2/history2_part1_07.htm
  4. http://www.correctionhistory.org/html/chronicl/cw_units/html/rikersbook004.html
  5. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~dav4is/Pedigrees/HALLETT.shtml
  6. http://www.astorialic.org/topics/timeline/1600_p.php
  7. http://memory.loc.gov/service/gc/gckb/041/02980202u.txt
  8. http://home.austin.rr.com/keese/map.html
  9. http://www.otal.umd.edu/~walt/gen/htmfile/1182.htm
  10. http://bigelowsociety.com/rod/winwoman.htm
  11. http://users.rcn.com/sleyzak/willthomasfones.html
  12. http://home.austin.rr.com/keese/genref2.html
  13. http://www.tricountyi.net/~asmullen/greenegenie/Jackson/jackson_ancestors.htm
  14. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~woolsey/www/woolgeormar.html